It’s National Championship season, the last chance for NCAA fans to watch their favorite wrestlers for the season or, for outgoing seniors, for good.
There’s always the percentage of wrestlers that shift their attention towards the Olympics or MMA, but for a large portion of graduating athletes, their days in sports are over.
With the historically strong hand-in-hand relationship wrestling and MMA has had, who are some of the most talented wrestlers to never step into the cage?
Josiah Hritsko of one of the most popular wrestling YouTube channels gives us his picks!
Jason Nolf – Penn State University
“He’s a three-time National champ. When I think of just a gritty, hard-nosed tough guy, I’m picturing Jason Nolf. Not only that, he was just able to make stuff up on the mat. He was one of the most innovative wrestlers that I’ve seen. I’d love to see his style translated to MMA to see what kind of innovative things he could bring to MMA.”
Cary Kolat – Lock Haven University
He started at Penn State and transferred to Lock Haven, which is where he won his two National titles. Cary Kolat is one of the toughest guys in our sport, period. He was one of those guys from the 90s, grew up in Pennsylvania. The stories that he has and shares with the wrestling community, this is a guy who has done 10,000 pushups in one night. There’s a story of him going overseas and training internationally. He sees these guys that have a lot of different conditions than we in America live through. He said these guys would get off the mat and go right to the showers and the shower is literally a pipe sticking out of the wall. Out of it you have this cold water, and he said the only way he could prove he was as tough as these guys, he had to just go under and shower like the rest of them. I just think that type of toughness could have translated to MMA.
Kurt Angle – Clarion University
He was just strong and explosive on the mat. He’s a multiple-time National champion from Clarion. He’s actually from around my neck of the woods in Mount Lebanon, Pennsylvania. He ended up, not only in college winning National titles, but on the world stage he won a world title and a gold medal and he actually won the gold medal with a broken neck, which is kind of crazy. He went off to the WWE, as we all know. He was one of the greatest entertainers there. I think that kind of entertainment and smack talk, mixed with his talents on the mat, would really translate well.
Gable Steveson – University of Minnesota
He’s a guy who’s signed with the WWE right now but I think he would translate well to MMA. He’s a National champion and is likely going to get his second title this March. He’s got an Olympic gold medal after the craziest win I’ve ever seen in my life last year at the Tokyo Olympics. He’s really grown to be the face of the sport of college wrestling. He’s mean on the mat, he’s dominant on the mat, he walks over his opponents. I’d be afraid to get hit by him because it would knock just about anybody out. Maybe he does follow in the footsteps of a Brock Lesnar, where he goes to WWE and mixes with some MMA in the future, but he embodies the word “entertainer” and I think that hewould do well.
Thomas Gilman – University of Iowa
When I think about MMA a lot, you think about those hard-nosed, those tough guys, some of the toughest guys on the planet and, for me, I think that goes hand in hand with Iowa wrestlers. One of those is Thomas Gilman, who I watched growing up. He was a National finalist but actually never won a National title. I think that’s kind of an interesting thing. A lot of these guys I’m mentioning are National champions and Thomas Gilman never won that title. He’s done well internationally, he’s a bronze medalist at the Olympics. He’s a trash talker. He doesn’t take crap from anybody. There was a match in college between Iowa and Oklahoma State, they almost got into a brawl after the match because Gilman was yelling at the Oklahoma State coaches and stuff. There’s a story that in the practice room they had to share the room before the match and Gilman was scared to turn his back to the Oklahoma State guys because he thought he was going to get jumped. He’s as tough as they come.
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